FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQS)
Information Access and Restrictions; Personal Data
What University information can I get or give out?
There are two primary laws governing University information the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, Minn. Stat. ch. 13, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Title 20 U.S.C. Sec. 1232. Each contains many detailed provisions, classifying information as private, public, or confidential. The University has designated Susan McKinney of the University's Office of Records and Information Management as the person responsible for policies and procedures governing access to University information. The University's Policy on Public Access to University Information outlines procedures for obtaining public information and includes a list of examples of public, private, and confidential information in "Appendices." If someone requests University information and you are unsure of the status (private or public) of that information, call Ms. McKinney at 612-625-3497.
I am an employee. What information about me is available to the public or to me?
Minnesota Government Data Practices Act makes some information about employees public. Public information includes the following:
Information about the job. Salary, pension, fringe benefits, contract fees, expense reimbursements, job title, job description, dates of employment, work location, work telephone, and payroll documents.
Information about the employee. Education, training, previous work experience, city and county of residence, honors and awards, settlement agreements regarding employment disputes, the existence and status of complaints against the employee, and disciplinary history.
Personnel information that does not fall in a "public" classification generally is private. Examples of private personnel information include performance reviews, teaching evlauations, and personal information such as family information, home address and phone number (unless you included them in the directory), race, and social security number.
As an employee, you generally have a right to any recorded information about you, although there are some exceptions, for example, active audits and legal investigations. If you want to obtain recorded information about you, you can go directly to the department maintaining the information, or contact Susan McKinney, Director, Records and Information Management, at 612-625-3497 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am a student. What information about me is available to the public or to me?
The Regents' Policy on Access to Student Records (PDF) is a thorough summary of information available to you and to the public.
Can I give a candid employment or academic reference without getting sued?
Under the laws discussed above, you must have written permission from the employee/former employee or student/former student before you provide reference information about them to someone outside the University, even if it's a good reference. Keep several copies of Reference Request and Student Authorization and Reference Request and Employee Authorization handy so that when you are asked to provide a reference, you can obtain written consent immediately. This written consent to release information is valid for one year from the date of the student's/employee's signature.
I know the University as a public institution is covered by the Data Practices Act and many of its records and documents are available to the public. Can the University then agree to hold any information confidential or enter into confidentiality agreements?
The University has limited authority to hold information confidential. The Data Practices Act permits the University to withhold "trade secret" information from the public and to agree to maintain such information as confidential. The Data Practices Act's definition of "trade secret" information is quite narrow and one must be careful not to agree to hold information confidential outside the statutory definition.
Where can I find more information about the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act and the University's policy on records retention?
The Records and Information Management Web site has information on the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act and the University's records retention policy.